At 18, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: teach. In fact, I had known this since 3rd grade, and could not understand how other classmates couldn’t decide on a major. But by 20, I was a General Studies major, with a nice collection of major-changes already under my belt. And then I left as a student missionary youth worker in New Zealand, and came back confident that I had it figured out this time. Pastoral Care. This was it. It was a brand new major, and I was a brand new me. Until I hit Greek class, which almost killed me that semester. So I changed my major again. This time the only question about which major to take was “Which one will let me graduate the fastest?” Which actually worked pretty well for me.
During your mission experience, you probably had time to think about the decisions ahead in your life. This is often a big reason why many SMs are SMs in the first place (including myself)–to buy some time to make some of these decisions. For some SMs, the question is answered–they had an awesome year of ministry or teaching, and are convinced that this is their life work. But others of us agonize about our major for awhile, frustrated that the year we took out to serve God was “in vain” when it came to making life choices easier.
To the major-strugglers, here’s some encouragement (and those who think they have it figured out…you might be back here soon). Be patient with yourself. You are still young, even though it seems like life is passing you by at 21 or 24 years old. Think about it. Jesus didn’t start His public ministry until He was 30. Moses didn’t figure out his “real” job until he was 80. (Yes, there was Joash the boy king, but child prodigies are in another category). Remember how God has led you through other times when you felt blind–maybe this last year. Have you experienced Him coming through for you before? Hold on to those memories, and believe He will do it again. If you say you believe that God is leading in your life–or if you can only ask Him to help your unbelief–then you can be confident that He will not drop you off at the ad building and leave you after your SM year.
This does NOT mean, however, that your journey is guaranteed to be simple. Some of us learn better by trying lots of things out. Don’t be afraid to change your major if you need to–learning lots of things is never a waste. However, I recommend taking your time to get back and settled in a little while before making any huge changes to your life plans. Sometimes things look overwhelming when you’re in the middle of transition, and you might be looking for something that isn’t really you. If you want, check out the career counseling services at your school. It may not give you all the answers, but can point you in a good general direction, or confirm where you’re already headed. Talk to friends and family, and hear them out. Whether you feel understood or not, they do care, and might have some insight about you that you don’t see. But most of all, keep the conversation going with God at all times. Learn how to listen for His voice–through His Word, through others, through circumstances. If you wait on Him, He will be faithful.
In one of my career-questioning-crises, I ran across this quote that sums it up well:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – God (Jeremiah 29:11, MSG)